hollow and dancing

Last Sunday, after visiting the Isokon Gallery with a friend, we went for a walk on Hampstead Heath. Although I do know my way around it pretty well, there are still all sorts of little paths I’ve never been down before, and sometimes they take me off track from where I’m aiming at, which is what happened on Sunday. I was taking him to see the hollow tree, but I went down a new path and we managed to circumnavigate the entire glade the tree is in. Serves me right for getting cocky about knowing my way around.

Anyway, I’d been for a walk on the Heath a few days before, and taken photos then, including the hollow tree, so I thought I’d post some of those.

beech tree, Hampstead Heath
I love beech trees. At the end of August they started dropping their nuts, and for weeks I spent several peaceful moments sitting alone under the beech tree canopies, just listening to the pop-plop of the nut-cases falling to the ground and splitting open. I thought about foraging for them, but beech nuts only have a good season every 3-5 years, and a bit of internet research led me to find that the last good season was 2011 (which by all reports was spectacular), and this year the nuts have no meat on them. They still make a pleasing crunch when you walk over them, though.

tiny shoot, Hampstead Heath
Even as the season dies, there’s always a spurt of new life somewhere.

hollow tree, Hampstead Heath
Hello hollow.

dancing trees, Hampstead Heath
These trees, opposite the hollow tree, always look to me like they are dancing.

michaelmas daisies, Hampstead Heath
I always know it’s September when I see the michaelmas daisies. I love them.

Himalayan balsam, Hampstead Heath
This is Himalayan balsam, aka Policeman’s Helmet, Gnome’s Hatstand and (my favourite), Love-on-a-mountain. It is very pretty but very invasive because it can shoot its seeds up to seven metres, and bees adore it, which means that native plants don’t get pollinated. They actually have it under control on the Heath, and there aren’t that many plants, so when you see them it’s a nice surprise, because it is so pretty. The flowers and seedpods are edible, which is one way to deal with it (although I’ve not tried it myself), but as with any invasive plant you have to be careful not to tread the seedpods anywhere else. Probably best just to admire it from afar.

rosebay willowherb, Hampstead Heath
And this is rosebay willowherb, aka fireweed (because it grows well on burnt, damaged soil), which is also an invasive and also edible. I actually ate it earlier this year when the young leaves were out, very young leaves have a bit of a zingy citrus taste and were an interesting addition to salads. In my experience it has to be eaten as fresh as possible as the leaves got a bit tough after a day or two in the fridge, but they tasted OK chucked into a soup, so they weren’t wasted (it’s very high in nutrients, too!). I wanted to make some fireweed jelly this summer but again, despite its invasive nature, they keep it under control on the Heath, and I didn’t want to take all the blossoms from only a few plants because then no one else could enjoy them (not that this stopped somebody else from stripping them instead). There’s always next year.

6 Comments to “hollow and dancing”

  1. Ah, now I know Himalyan balsam and Rosebay willowherb and their invasive habits very well, but I didn’t know they were edible. Fascinating. I will have to try them. Many years ago when I lived in London, I enjoyed wandering around Hampstead Heath, and is it Kenwood House nearby? Xxx

  2. I love the creepy looking trees and love your description of crunching through the beechnuts. x

  3. aw, it’s such a treat to read (and see) about fall in another part of the world, to be surprised by plants i’ve never met, to learn what tactile experiences (crunchy beech nuts) make a season for someone else. :) i love those daisies…i’ve only heard of the michaelmas celebration, didn’t know there was a flower. and your hollow tree! hello there beauty. Thank you for this slice of autumn.

    • How nice to be able to introduce you to new plants when yours was one of the blogs which inspired me to learn more about wild edibles :)

      Not being religious I’d forgotten that michaelmas daisies were named for the festival but of course that makes sense.

  4. That hollow tree looks very sculptural, doesn’t it? And yes, the dancing trees are definitely getting their groove on! Such a lovely place to walk, and take unexpected turns. xxx